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2021 WJC Day 1 RECAP: Slovakia shows up big, Germany loses a personal ironman match, and the USA farts around and pays dearly for it

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We begin our tourney with a pair o’ stunners!

Russia v United States: Preliminary Round Group B - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

As per usual, we end up with a start that seems to be designed to get everybody’s dander up. I won’t be surprised if Canada somehow surrenders three goals to Rossi tomorrow to ensure it.

Game 1: A middle european goalie duel ends in Slovakia coming out on top 1-0

This game ruled. I don’t care how low the score was. It featured what will almost certainly be the save of the tournament.

Game Notes:

  • Gotta give the Slovaks all the credit in the world: They showed up ready to party. They had a little help from Switzerland, but played very encouraging hockey. Miro Satan’s hard work must already be paying off!
  • Switzerland played a solid game except for one critical issue: They just became little murderhobos out there, taking truly bizarre penalties behind the play and just getting mean as hell for no reason. Aren’t the Swiss supposed to not have real problems? What is their deal?
  • No problems for either goalie but man. Take a bow Simon Latkoczy, for that incredible 3rd period save. Kid was simply unstoppable last night.

Game 2 - Germany has a Christmas Miracle in that while wildly undermanned, they scored three times in a loss. Finns win 5-3.

I can’t overstate just how improbable this game was for the Germans. They got actual christmas magic in this game.

Game Notes:

  • Germany showed up to this game with 14 players, and ended up platooning almost half of them into playing nearly 20 minutes a player. Absolute madness, and it’s why you take this pandemic shit seriously, kids.
  • But let’s also not let the Finns off the hook: They more or less invited the Germans to come back with yet more dumb penalties and poor penalty killing. Yeah, Tim Stutzle is a beast, but you really should be able to defend a 2-on-1 from them, right?
  • That said, their offense is good. If you give them time and space, they will keep you pinned in your own end slowly suffocating like an Anaconda. Not that they needed too much time to run away with this one.
  • Bruins player in this game: Matias Mantykivi only barely played in this game, playing a little under 4 minutes with 6 shifts. He was the extra skater they would swap in whenever so it’s not super surprising.

Game 3 - USA tries to win the third period, but can’t overcome abysmal first 40 minutes. Russia wins 5-3

I appreciate that the US still lives up to their reputation, but that didn’t make this any less frustrating to watch.

Game Notes:

  • Even for the US’s brand of “playing with dynamite” hockey, this was a sloppy...sloppy game where the defense felt like it was playing a practice scrimmage and Spencer Knight...whoo boy, our poor boy Spencer. Not a great start to their tourney, let’s put it that way. Comebacks are only cute if they work, boys.
  • Not helping the US was Russia, a team that has quite a bit of firepower, and basically enforced that every chance they got. They did sort of turn off the gas towards the end, but mostly let the US wear themselves out first on the rocks of their solid defense. They’re a dangerous team, they attack hard, their backchecking structure is airtight (most of the time, they’re still kids), and they look poised to finally get over the hump.
  • Vasily Ponomaryov, a player who scored twice in this game, described his line’s play as “Garbage Hockey” in an extremely charming interview on TSN. He’s gonna fit in just fine in Carolina, and print approximately 200,000 shirts of just things he’s said.
  • Bruins in this game: Roman Bychkov got the night off. For all they knew, he could’ve had a goal on Knight tonight had he played.

Today’s Games

  1. Sweden vs. Czech Republic - 2pm
  2. Germany vs. Canada - 6pm
  3. USA vs. Austria - 7:30pm

Recommendation: Easily Sweden vs. Czechs for the simple fact that whatever Sweden shows up as will either help decide their group or be wildly competitive and maybe worth considering as an upset?

...Look, the other two games are almost assuredly going to be blowouts. There’s no need to prolong any thought on that.